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The Bird is All Right

Sunday, August 5, 2018

I've left this post to simmer a little while because it takes time to make a whole bluebird. You shouldn't get it all in the same week! Bluebirds stay in the nest for around 18-21 days after hatching. So we're back, checking on the "not quite right" foster bluebird baby, and things have changed.

The next time I came out to check the bluebirds, it was going to be tricky. You shouldn't open a box after the babies are about 13 days old, because you risk their jumping out of the nest prematurely. But Phoebe and I were burning to know how Baby was doing on Day 16. I looked at the box, and noted that the ventilation slot just under the roof was juuust big enough to admit a curious iPhone!

Gingerly, I inserted my phone into the slot under the box roof and fired off a shot. July 26, 2018, Day 16. Look who's STILL begging!! The one in the back right corner...why, it has to be FosterBaby! What a hoot!

She's not dumb. She's opportunistic. And durn cute! Feathers and Everything!

She quickly realized her mistake and settled down, and I got this fabulous shot of the whole brood of five. As always, she's crowded into the right back corner of the box. After studying it for awhile, I could ascertain that FosterBaby is indeed a female. Not only are her secondary coverts a very dull blue, but even though there's a piece of grass over it, you can just make out a white edge to her outer tail feather--another nice and little-known early trait of female bluebird nestlings. One of those bluebird landlord secrets, ta-daaa!

The other thing you can see in this shot is the development of her tertial feathers, the ones that run in a little brown-edged stack of three atop her wing. Compare it to the development of the tertials you can see on the other babies. Hers are just coming out, while theirs are more fully developed.

Let's try a shot through the hole. You can really see the difference in her tertial development here. They're out, but not as far as those of her siblings. She's looking sleek and well-fed. I'm delighted!

Of course, I had to know if they were still in the box on July 27, her Day 17. Yep. You can just see her peeking in the back right corner in this shot taken through the entry hole. Man, I love my iPhone for applications like this! 

This would be my last shot of FosterBaby on Day 17. She's squished into the back corner, head down this time, and all three tertials are out, hooray! 

On the morning of July 29, FosterBaby's Day 19, I went down to Dean's Fork to visit the decorative box where this adventure had started. With some difficulty, I got a shot through the hole of her three biological siblings, looking fledge-ready in the back of the little blue barn house. I thought about the last time I'd pointed my phone camera in this hole, to find such a pathetic, shivering, cold, starved little thing, discarded by her mother but still hoping for help.

July 29: Three fat siblings, 19 days old, ready to fly. Nobody in the breach.

I left a slot box at the base of the pole with a note inside for Harvey, to wait about a week, then replace the decorative box with one the Science Chimp could get into and clean! 

The next time I walked out to the Fosters' box in our meadow was the evening of July 29. It would be Day 19 for Baby, Day 20 for her siblings. Her spot was empty. So was the box.

All that was left were the regurgitated seeds of wild cherries. I can see resorting to wild cherries when trying to fill the stomachs of five voracious youngun's. There is also the hard, scary-looking skull, complete with jaws, of a Nebraska conehead (a kind of grasshopper) in the nest cup, which had probably been regurgitated as well. But hardly a fecal sac to be seen. What efficient, good parents the Fosters were!

We'd had a most excellent adventure. There was one more bluebird out there who wouldn't have made it if we hadn't meddled. It's hard to say what it was that made the chick's biological mother toss her out. Even we dull-witted humans could tell she wasn't right at the outset. It seemed as if her issues resolved with time and good care, though one can never know for sure. She had flown with the rest when fledging day came. At best, she was good to go and would live a normal life. At worst, we'd given her a fighting chance to become a bluebird, and that seems like a good thing. As always, we'd learned a lot, and stored it all away for another day.

I have to say it feels good to be blogging again. There are so many stories out there,  begging for help, begging to be told.


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Wonderful post. I wish I could have rescued some of my babies. I think the food supply ran out. Our bluebirds departed en mass, leaving nests with eggs in them. A couple of nests had hungry nestlings. Some of them fledged and some died. I still had a few bluebird nestlings last week, but all new nesting has stopped. Again we got almost NO Grasshoppers which are the main bluebird food mid July to August. And I much prefer the top opening boxes we use here, Especially this year, when several clutches of mountain bluebirds and tree sparrows were still there on my third visit to nestlings. I think we had way reduced insects this year. IWe are having warm winters, early springs, and then cold snaps with rain and snow. I expect many insects are turning into adults, only to get killed by the weather before they can lay eggs.

A wonderful bluebird rescue story. You gave her a chance and she took it! A contribution to the good in our world. Much needed and much appreciated.

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